Universiteit Leiden

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Impacts of fire on invertebrate species

What impact does a mid-season wildfire have on grassland invertebrates?

2012 - 2016


Short abstract

  • New growth after a summer fire may attract moths and butterflies to lay eggs.
  • Burning CRP or prairie sites in summer months may increase the occurrence of agricultural pests and should be considered when in close proximity to agricultural fields.

Project description

In the American Midwest, summer fires are infrequent and there is little information on their impact on ecosystems. After an accidental wildfire in a 20 ha grassland restoration, new growth provided effective substrate for the Noctuid species corn earworm ( Helicoverpa zea Boddie 1850) and tobacco budworm ( Heliothis virescens Fabricius 1777).

A comparison of burned and unburned areas at 10, 30, 60 and 90 days post fire show 18 times the number of Lepidoptera larvae collected in pitfall traps in the burned area compared to the adjacent unburned area of the grasslands. These findings demonstrate that a mid-season fire can affect the abundance of economically important insects.

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